Which Do You Enjoy More?

Posted by on Apr 28, 2013 in Writing and Speaking | 1 comment

The host of a recent event interviewed me in front of the audience after listening to the speech I gave. “Which do you enjoy more? Writing or speaking?” I was perplexed by the question, and when I did answer, I heard an edge in my voice.  It was as if he had asked me which of my two daughters I love more. I have a profound, intense relationship with both acts of creation. I love each one equally, differently, and see them as inextricably linked. For days after the event, I thought about that question. At first, I looked at history for my answer. Which one have I done longer? Which one came first? For a class assignment when I was seven years old, I had to write something to present in front of an audience. I remember sitting in front of my window at home writing my first song. I stood on the cafeteria stage, shaking in my shoes, and sang from my soul in front of a small audience of my peers and parents. When it’s cold outside and I’m feeling lonely, sometimes I just don’t know what to do. So I look outside and what do I see? I see the birds and the bees, and the flowers and the trees, that’s what I see that’s what I see that’s what I see that’s what I see and it pleases me! By middle school, I separated the acts of writing from speaking to appear confident and brave while ensuring a great deal of personal safety. I stood in front of larger audiences, delivering monologues written by other people and pouring passion into the roles I played in theater productions. Late at night, though, the true grit came out in my journal. My pen dared to write the words and ask the questions I could not speak to even my closest friends. As an adult, the act of writing sustained me when I could not speak. At times, I wrote with the same intensity I had in middle school. I filled pages in the privacy of late nights and early mornings. I wrestled with experiences, emotions, and questions. The words that I wrote terrified me, exhilarated me and, ultimately, held the key to my finding the courage I needed to speak. I remember the moment I rediscovered my voice. I was a participant in a weekend-long course focused on personal and professional development. We were working in small groups on a particular exercise. After seeing what each of us did with the assignment, my group chose me as the strongest example from our group. Within minutes, I was in front of the room on a stage speaking...

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Family Meetings

Posted by on Apr 21, 2013 in Business, Education, Relationships | 1 comment

Regular meetings are essential when people work as a team to accomplish a goal. Meetings are the vehicle not only for exchanging information with each other, but also for creating a sense of support and connection among the members of the team. One of my favorite teams in my life is my family. We are a dynamic and diverse group of individuals with a shared passion for living a life full of joy. During our team meeting last week, I enjoyed seeing how, by slightly adapting the same strategies I use in my business, we navigate charged and sticky situations, create solutions, and build team support and connection along the way. Here are six success strategies we use for team meetings. Team leaders do their homework. As team leader, I did pre-meeting research about what issues were likely to come up during our time together. I gathered the supplies we needed for our meeting, and I scheduled our meeting at a time of day when people would be well-fed, relaxed, and willing to come together. I bring the same level of commitment and intentionality to our family meetings as I would for meeting with any of my business or client teams. We have a clear topic and focus for our meetings. Last week’s topic was chores and allowance. During the meeting, one daughter wanted to discuss what would be involved in changing her room around. We acknowledged the importance of her request, and agreed to schedule a separate time to focus on that topic. We start by listening and listing. On a large, dry-erase poster board, we listed the answers we heard from each family member when we asked these questions: What is working well? What could be working better? What else would you like to say? We accept and honor the fact that individuals on our team think, create, and solve problems in different ways. My younger daughter shares my love of schedules, lists, and time estimates. During the working part of our meeting, she chose many of the same strategies I do for breaking a problem into pieces and then creating a handwritten, visual plan with linear steps. My older daughter feels constrained, almost panicked, when asked to work with processes that are linear, time-bound, and handwritten. When this daughter was ready to work and create, she chose to use a program on the iPad to organize her thoughts with a creative flair. In the end, each family member brought back to the team brought back a product that worked well to manage individual parts of what the entire team needed. We make sure people feel supported throughout the process. During the most challenging parts of our...

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Baby Steps

Posted by on Apr 14, 2013 in Relationships | 1 comment

Yesterday I held a newborn baby in my arms. Just shy of eight pounds in weight, and only forty-eight hours old, she lay sleeping in my arms. She rested in complete peace, relying on us to provide everything she needed to keep her tiny body comfortable and safe. Everything else left my mind. In that moment, nothing was more pressing or more needed than breathing in that baby’s beauty and grace. Time stopped as I studied her little nose and felt her tiny back rise and fall with each breath. On the way home from our visit, we made an unexpected stop to visit a relative who has been recovering from an injury. We touched beautiful yarn, hugged, laughed, and breathed in the joy of being together. Again, everything else left my mind, creating space to be fully in the moment of connection. Some of my clients and friends tell me they have a hard time meditating. “My brain jumps around too much.” “I can’t focus.” “I like the idea of meditating, but it’s too hard for me.” While a meditation practice can help us become more present in our lives, our life can also become one big meditation practice. We get to choose where we look, for how long, and what level of meditation we want to experience. If vibrant sunsets, spring blossoms, and Great Dane hugs barely fit in with all the other racing thoughts, then hold a newborn. Reach out and touch the hand of someone who is healing, or dying, or learning to walk again for a whole new part of their path in life. Be with them. Listen. Breathe in peace, breathe out peace. Repeat. Sometimes I leap, and sometimes I take baby steps toward seeing the miracle of each moment. Of one thing I am sure–our joy lives in being able to see the beauty and miracle of these moments as easily as we breathe in, breathe...

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Posted by on Apr 7, 2013 in Business, Education, Relationships | 1 comment

In education and business, we often see the term ‘mentor’ used in specific, designed ways. New teachers are assigned to a mentor teacher and are required to meet with this person for a certain number of hours throughout the year. Law firms and businesses have mentoring programs that pair senior executives with new partners. However, many people step into the role of mentor without any formal invitation or label. Often the people who are most effective, connected, and trusted in their role as leader, supervisor, or manager are also serving as great mentors. When we see employees who are engaged, empowered, and appreciative of those from whom they take direction, we are often looking at the evidence of great mentoring in action. Some people become, with experience, fantastic mentors over time. Other leaders benefit from additional training in how to be a mentor. When we coach and train people who are working to improve their mentorship skills, we start with these questions: What makes a person a great mentor? What inspires people to reach out and connect with someone? How does a mentor best convey the wisdom and life experience a new hire needs?   Through the training process, we discover that a great mentor possesses many of the same skills as a great coach. Mentors and coaches both focus, first and foremost, on developing rapport and relationship. People need to feel safe, heard, and respected before they will choose to engage with any depth or receptivity. To create rapport and relationship, we begin with these four skills: Active listening. People often believe that, as mentors, we should provide information, answers, and guidance. While this may be true, the process begins primarily with listening. As mentors, we listen to both what is being said, and also for what is not said. From listening, we learn about what is most important to those we mentor. We take our cues from what they share, and we set aside our own agenda. Asking the right questions. Great mentors ask great questions. We ask open-ended questions that invite those we mentor to expand and elaborate on what they are saying. We use these questions as a way to allow us to do even more active listening. With the exception of a few initial queries, our questions come from what we are hearing in the conversation, not from something we have decided in advance. Acknowledging and validating often. At every opportunity, we acknowledge what is working well. There are very few situations in life that inspire as much anxiety and vulnerability as beginning a job in a new environment with new expectations. As mentors, we have an opportunity to help people celebrate even the...

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